Stars sweep Tri-City, wait for second round opponent

By Jason Shaner

By Richard Roeder

The Lincoln Stars move on to the Clark Cup semi-finals by sweeping the Tri-City Storm three games to none in first round USHL playoff action. Lincoln will either face Cedar Rapids or Des Moines in the second round, pending the outcome of the Waterloo-Des Moines series. The USHL playoff format re-seeds teams after first round action, and sixth seeded Cedar Rapid’s upset of Topeka will shuffle the first round brackets around for round two. Lincoln and Cedar Rapids will face each other unless seventh seed Des Moines can win back to back games tonight (4/7) and tomorrow (4/8).

Game 1 – 4/2/03 @ Tri-City

Lincoln was led by two familiar faces against the Storm. Danny Irmen (4-3-7)and Ryan Potulny (2-5-7) led the Stars to a hard fought 5-3 win in game one, played in Kearney. David Backes opened the scoring half way through the first, poking home an unattended rebound at the 10:42 mark. Tri-City responded with the next two goals, taking the lead with a goal by Steve Wagner in the final second of the first. Lincoln regained the lead with two second period goals, one by Chris Porter and the other from Irmen. The Storm made it evened it up at three five minutes into the third with a goal by Mark Agnew. But Irmen responded again, burying a shot on a nifty pass from Potulny for the eventual game winner. The defense tightened up behind goaltender Nate Zieglemann (23 saves), and Ben Gordon closed out the scoring with an empty netter, again from Irmen, to seal the win. Game one was very physical, with the teams combining for 64 penalty minutes. Backes left the game after suffering a concussion midway through the game. Not thought to be serious, Backes did not play the rest of the series, and is probable for the round two opener.

Richard’s three Stars

3rd Star – Scott Parse (TC)

2nd Star – Chris Porter (Lin)

1st Star – Dan Irmen (Lin)

Game 2 – 4/4/03 @ Lincoln

Although not a sell-out, the Ice Box was rocking as Lincoln played their first home playoff game. Jeff McFarland opened the scoring for Lincoln, and the lead grew to 3-0 after goals by, you guessed it, Potulny and Irmen. Phil Lamoureux made 22 saves for the win, losing the shutout early in the third on a goal by Storm forward Scott Parse. But Porter responded at the 16:09 mark on the power play to shut the door, and give Lincoln a commanding 2-0 lead in the series. The game was not quite as physical as Wednesday in Kearney, but Lincoln still owned an advantage in extra man situations. The Stars lit the lamp on three power play goals out of nine total chances. The Storm were zero for three on the power play.

Richard’s three Stars

3rd Star – Matt Hayek (Lin)

2nd Star – Phil Lamoureux (Lin)

1st Star – Dan Irmen (Lin)

Game 3 – 4/5/03 @ Lincoln

Any doubt about going back to Kearney for game 4 was answered early and again by Irmen. Irmen scored on a rebound 26 seconds in, and the Stars never looked back. Brent Borgen and Gordon (twice) scratched the score card for Lincoln and are beginning to become accustomed to the difference between Minnesota high school hockey and USHL play. Borgen’s goal gave Lincoln a 2-0 lead after the first, and an unassisted goal by John Snowden and a power play tally by Gordon made it 4-0 after two periods. The third period was rough, chippy hockey, although there were no major penalties. Zieglemann wasn’t in a giving mood as well, stopping all 23 shots for the shutout. Potulny and Gordon score in the third, and Lincoln moves on.

Richard’s three Stars

3rd Star – Ben Gordon(Lin)

2nd Star – Brent Borgen(Lin)

1st Star – Nate Zieglemann(Lin)

Lincoln really stepped up in the first round. The offense looked fast and in sync, something that was missing the last few weeks of the season. The defense was solid, especially in games two and three. Both Zieglemann and Lamoureux were up to the challenge. If Lincoln remains focused, they will be a huge obstacle for either the Buccaneers or Roughriders in round two. Round 2 starts Friday (4/11) in Lincoln, regardless of the opponent.